The age gap between 31-year-old Alexis Bledel (2009's "Post Grad
") and 19-year-old Saoirse Ronan (2013's "The Host
") may be close to twelve years, but audience members not in the know would never be able to guess it in the satirical teenage assassin comedy "Violet & Daisy." Bledel and Ronan play the eponymous characters, 18-year-old friends who are estranged from their parents, share a NYC apartment, andoh, yeahkill people for money. Having completed one such hit that had them dressing as nuns and mowing down a slew of dirty-dealing suits (to the easy-listening sounds of the Juice Newton tune "Angel of the Morning," natch), Violet (Alexis Bledel) and Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) are hoping to take a relaxing hiatus from their high-stress profession. Said vacation doesn't last long, with the two gals desperately needing $300 apiece to buy musician idol Barbie Sunday's newest couture dress, and boss Russ (Danny Trejo) having just the hit for them: crooked businessman Michael (James Gandolfini). The job should be over and done quickly, but instead goes haywire from the start. It turns out it's a bit more difficult to shoot someone dead that you've gotten to know and likeeven when said person, full of regrets and suffering from pancreatic cancer, seemingly is welcoming the end of his life.
The directorial debut of screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher (2009's "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
"), "Violet & Daisy" is full of colorful banter, used to shield the film from its restrictive budget, scope, and narrative deficiencies. It wants to be "Clueless" meets Gregg Araki, but it has far less on its mind than the former teen classic and not nearly enough provocative material to match the latter indie director's sensibilities. Violet is the more experienced assassin, having taken Daisy under her wing after meeting as children at a doll hospital. What has led them to be killers? Why are their families out of the picture? Every time Michael tries to press them on the topic, the gals recoil from revealing much of anything about themselves. For this reason, they remain alternately immature and cool-under-pressure ciphers.
Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan have an easy rapport and are believable as live-in friends with decidedly illegal employment, while James Gandolfini (2012's "Killing Them Softly
") brings his signature levity and respectability to the more complicated role of Michael, paying for the mistakes he's made in life and prepared to face the consequences. Though there is the suggestion that Daisy isn't quite fit for this particular deadly trade, nothing comes of it and the girls do not signify enough of a change, internal or otherwise, by the end to make the journey a worthwhile one. It doesn't help that the picture is too claustrophobic for such an oft-times inspiringly-photographed production (courtesy of cinematographer Vanja Cernjul). "Violet & Daisy" can talk the talk, but their spry, acerbic interplay cannot shield the notion that neither of them have much going on upstairs. They're empty vessels at the service of a script where life rarely seems to exist off the page.